It’s hard to discern whether The Weeknd is bragging or lamenting his misadventures.
It’s hard to discern whether The Weeknd is bragging or lamenting his misadventures.
Photo by Marco Torres

The Weeknd's Dance-Friendly Darkness Enlightens Toyota Center

The Weeknd
Toyota Center
October 17, 2017

Confessions are en vogue these days.

From Jay Z’s 4:44 to Vic Mensa's The Autobiography, mea culpas have become their own sub-genre of rap and R&B. But if The Weeknd is any indication, wrongdoers needn't change their behavior so long as the they're willing to admit their misdeeds.

It’s hard to discern whether The Weeknd, born Abel Tesfaye, is bragging or lamenting his misadventures, as dance-friendly beats often belie the darkness of his lyrics. He cops to excessive drug use, infidelity and general self-loathing while touting his brand and claiming — often despondently — that it's all for the money.

He sings of infidelity on "Wicked Games," of emptying his bank account at a strip club while his girlfriend awaits his return home. But what could pass for standard fare in '90s-era hip-hop takes an emotional turn in the 2010s as Tesfaye mourns his inability to believe the dancer when she says she loves him.

The Weeknd walked up and down the catwalk as fans outstretched their arms, hoping to catch a high five.
The Weeknd walked up and down the catwalk as fans outstretched their arms, hoping to catch a high five.
Photo by Marco Torres

Some of The Weeknd's lyrics are great; others come across a misogynistic mess. Somewhere in the middle is a young man who's just trying to enjoy his twenties. Unfortunately for the artist himself, he seems just a little too self-aware to find joy in any of it.

On tour in support of his third studio album, Starboy, the Canadian singer-songwriter visited Houston's Toyota Center Tuesday night. He performed nearly two dozen songs in 90 minutes and treated a nearly sold-out crowd to a light show rivaling Kanye's Saint Pablo tour last year.

A giant installation resembling a spaceship hung over The Weeknd's head all evening, shapeshifting in between tracks and live-streaming video of the show itself. The Weeknd walked up and down the catwalk as fans outstretched their arms, hoping to catch a high five or, at the very least, a quality Snapchat.

His set list included tracks from his latest release — "Party Monster," "Sidewalks" and the Daft Punk-produced "I Feel It Coming" — alongside older material stretching all the way back to his debut mixtape, 2011's House of Balloons.

Boastful tendencies notwithstanding, The Weeknd is fully aware of how hollow one-night stands are compared to a genuine relationship.
Boastful tendencies notwithstanding, The Weeknd is fully aware of how hollow one-night stands are compared to a genuine relationship.
Photo by Marco Torres

Dark themes ran throughout, but that didn't keep the crowd from dancing as unapologetically as The Weeknd bore his soul, scars and all.

His boastful tendencies notwithstanding, The Weeknd is fully aware of how hollow one-night stands are compared to a genuine relationship. Despite that recognition, however, he seems at odds with himself about giving up his partying lifestyle to pursue what he clearly craves so badly: authenticity.

“And even though I sin, maybe we are born to live,” he crooned in “Angel,” about an hour into Tuesday night’s show. “But I know time will tell if we're meant for this... And if we're not, I hope you find somebody. I hope you find somebody to love."

Here's hoping The Weeknd finds someone too.

A giant installation resembling a spaceship hung over The Weeknd's head all evening.
A giant installation resembling a spaceship hung over The Weeknd's head all evening.
Photo by Marco Torres

SET LIST
Starboy
Party Monster
Reminder
Six Feet Under
Low Life
Might Not
Sidewalks
Crew Love
Often
Acquainted
Or Nah
Some Way (feat. Nav)
Tell Your Friends
Die For You
The Morning
Wicked Games
Angel
Earned It
In the Night
Black Beatles
Unforgettable (feat. French Montana)
Secrets
Can't Feel My Face
I Feel It Coming
The Hills

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